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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 215


Mr SWAN (5:11 PM) —by leave—I move:

(1) Schedule 15, page 88 (after line 23), item 2, after paragraph (b), insert:

(c) the value of any fringe benefits, as defined in the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act 1986 , received by the liable parent during the liable parent's last relevant year of income in relation to the child support year.

(2) Schedule 15, page 89 (after line 26), item 3, after paragraph (b) insert:

(c) the value of any fringe benefits, as defined in the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act 1986 received by the entitled carer during the last relevant year of income in relation to the child support year.

(3) Page 147, (after line 31) after Schedule 20, insert:

Schedule 20A—Further amendments

Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989

1 After section 55

Insert:

55A Registrar to be notified of value of fringe benefits received

(1) A liable parent or an entitled carer must notify the Registrar, within 30 days of the end of each financial year, of the value of any fringe benefits, as defined in the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act 1986 , received during the year.

(2) The regulations may set out the form in which the information required by this section is to be provided.

55B Updating of value of fringe benefits received

In working out a person's child support income amount in relation to the days in a child support year, the value of any fringe benefits, as defined in the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act 1986, received by the person during the person's last relevant year of income is to be multiplied by the inflation factor (if any) applicable to the child support year under the regulations.

2 At the end of section 60

Add:

(4) If a person has made an election under this section and that person subsequently becomes aware that his or her income for the year is likely to vary by 15% or more than the sum estimated for the purpose of the person's election, the person must notify the registrar of the details of the estimated variation at the first available opportunity.

3 After subsection 75(3)

Insert:

(3A) Without limiting subsection (1), the Registrar must amend any administrative assessment if satisfied that information provided by a liable parent or an entitled carer to child support establishes that the liable parent's monthly taxable income has varied by 15% or more from that recorded in that person's child support assessment.

4 After section 154

Insert:

154A Review of certain arrangements

(1) As soon as practicable after the commencement of the Child Support Legislation Amendment Act 1998 the Minister must arrange for an independent inquiry to be conducted to make an assessment of and report on:

(a) the impact on the relative disposable income of liable parents and custodians of the value of benefits provided by all levels of Government to parents who are recipients of benefits under the Social Security Act 1991 ; and

(b) the extent to which use is made of devices to reduce income tax in order to reduce or avoid obligations under this Act.

(2) The Minister must cause a copy of a report prepared under subsection (1) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the Minister receives the report.

5 After section 159

Insert:

159A Statements made recklessly etc.

(1) A person who recklessly:

(a) makes a statement to an officer which is false or misleading in a material particular; or

(b) omits from a statement made to an officer any matter or thing without which the statement is misleading in a material particular;

is guilty of an offence.

Penalty: 5 penalty units

(2) In a prosecution of a person for an offence against subsection (1), if, having regard to:

(a) the person's abilities, experience, qualifications and other attributes; and

(b) all the circumstance surrounding the alleged offence;

the person has acted without taking reasonable care as to the accuracy and completeness of the statement, or with wilful disregard to the requirements to obtain and provide relevant information, the person is to be taken to have acted recklessly in making the statement.

(3) A reference in subsection (1) to a statement made to an officer is a reference to a statement made to a person exercising powers under or in relation to this Act, whether the statement is made orally, in a document or in any other form, and includes, for example, a statement:

(a) made in an application, form, notification, appeal or other document made, given or lodged, or purporting to be made, given or lodged, under this Act; or

(b) made in answer to a question asked of the person under this Act; or

(c) made in any information given or purporting to have been given, under this Act.

159B Failure to notify required information

(1) A person who, intentionally or recklessly, fails to notify the Registrar of information required by subsection 60(3A), or subsection 66(1A) is guilty of an offence.

Penalty: 5 penalty units.

(2) In a prosecution of a person for an offence against subsection (1), if, having regard to:

(a) the person's abilities, experience, qualifications and other attributes; and

(b) all the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence;

the person has acted without reasonable care or with wilful disregard to his or her obligation to notify the Registrar as required by subsection 60(3A) or subsection 66(1A), the person is to be taken to have acted recklessly in failing to notify the Registrar.

These amendments seek to give effect to the changes that I outlined in my speech on the second reading. I will just briefly digress and respond to some of the things that the minister said in the context of these amendments. We will be moving further amendments in the Senate and I welcome the spirit of goodwill that he made his comments in and I would want to be speaking to him about those amendments subsequently.

Item 2 of schedule 15 of the bill seeks to alter the definition of the liable parent's child support income amount in section 38 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act to include exempt foreign income in rental property loss.

Our amendment No. 1 seeks to insert a new paragraph (c) into proposed section 38 to ensure that the non-custodial parent's relevant income also includes the value of fringe benefits as defined in the Fringe Benefits Assessment Act 1986.

Our amendment No. 2 does the same thing in respect of the definition of the entitled carer's child support income amount in section 45 of the act to ensure that fringe benefits are also included in the income of the non-custodial parent.

Our amendment No. 3 seeks to insert a new schedule 20A into the bill and deals with the other concerns I highlighted in my speech on the second reading. Item 1 of this proposed new schedule adds new sections 55A and 55B. Proposed section 55A requires both custodial and non-custodial parents to notify the registrar within 30 days of the end of the financial year of the value of any fringe benefits received. Proposed section 55B requires the Child Support Agency to apply the relevant inflation factor in assessing the value of fringe benefits.

Item 2 seeks to add a new subsection (4) to section 60 of the assessment act. Section 60 deals with the situation where a person's current income is at least 15 per cent lower than their income for the last relevant year of income and allows them to elect to have their child support liability or entitlement assessed on the basis of an estimate of their current income. Proposed subsection (4) would require a person who has made such an election to notify the registrar if he or she subsequently becomes aware that his or her income is likely to vary by at least 15 per cent of the estimate.

Item 3 of the proposed new schedule seeks to add a new subsection 75(3A) requiring the registrar to amend any assessment if satisfied that information provided by a custodial or non-custodial parent establishes that there has been a variation of the relevant income of at least 15 per cent from the income recorded in the assessment.

Item 4 of our proposed schedule would require the minister to establish an independent inquiry to investigate, firstly, the impact on disposable income of the value of fringe benefits provided by government to parents who are recipients of social security benefits and, secondly, the extent to which use is made of devices to reduce income tax in order to reduce or avoid their child support obligations.

Item 5 seeks to introduce sections 159A and 159B into the Child Support (Assessment) Act. These sections create offences in relation to the making of false of misleading statements, or intentional or reckless omissions, and to notify the registrar of information when required. Their intention is to help ensure that the custodial and non-custodial parents alike meet their obligations in relation to the child support scheme.